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August 3rd, 2017

Finding an Ergonomic Computer Chair an Ubuntu User Can Afford

Are you looking for a chair that’s guaranteed to work with any and all Linux distros and at a price you can afford? Ask Roblimo, he’ll steer you in the right direction.

WorkPro® Quantum 9000 chair

Roblimo’s Hideaway

I loved seeing an article by our friend Bruce Byfield about buying an ergonomic office chair. Bruce is a smart guy, a Linux user to the max, and author of the excellent book, Designing with LibreOffice. But what’s all this about choosing a Herman Miller chair? Those things are priced for SuperMac UltraPro users!

Bruce is a good guy, and if he wants a chair that costs at least $500, I’m happy for him. But I used to write an online column called Cheap Computing, and it was my excursions into low-cost computing that led me to Linux. So, since I’m the kind of guy who is using a rehabbed Core i3 desktop running Linux, not a Core i32 running Windows 14, I might look for my main office typing chair on craigslist instead of in a high-end office furniture catalog. And that’s exactly what I did.

I started by setting an absolute price ceiling of $100, and hoped to stay under $75 if possible. And for that, mind you, I didn’t expect to get something I could buy new at Office Depot for $99. I wanted ergonomics! At least two of them!! Maybe even three!!!

The chair I am sitting in right now was a craigslist purchase I made about a year ago. I decided to make a fresh, new office chair search for this article. I struck out. This is something you have to expect when you’re looking for used stuff. Sometimes what you want is right in front of you and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes you don’t find it on craigslist but you can find it in a used office furniture store, and I assure you there are plenty of used office furniture stores around. I personally prefer to buy furniture from clean, non-smoking homes or offices, but I’m picky. (You know how Linux users are!)

After a few calls, I got in my 1996 Jeep Cherokee (good vehicle for hauling furniture) and drove about six miles to see a WorkPro® Quantum 9000 chair. A fancy name, and in person it looked as fancy as its name and felt really good, so I bought it. For $75. Yep, I talked him down from $80 after admiring (because it was cool, not to kiss ass) his new home-brew tall tower computer in an all-acrylic case, with LEDs inside the case that changed colors depending on the load and tasks. I should have taken pictures of that computer. It was something special. But I was fixated on office chairs at the moment, and my wife was with me and in a “let’s get going” mood.

Yes, dear.

So we went home, where I rolled my new (to me) WorkPro® Quantum 9000 chair into my office, adjusted it 17 ways from Tuesday, and sat down to edit a video. (I edited a lot of videos that week.)

Did the chair work with Ubuntu? Darn tooting! As well it should have, since the guy I bought it from was running Debian on his too-cool transparent computer, and Ubuntu’s a Debian derivative. I later checked Mint, Fedora, and SUSE. All good. Windows, even. No kidding. Sometimes you hold your breath when you buy something new and crank up Windows (Windows 10 in this case) because… well… you know how Windows can be.

In any case, everything was fine until I spilled something on the seat, and put an ergonomic cushion over the spill. I already had the cushion around, so no problem — and the same thing would have happen with a Herman Miller chair, right?

And then the arms started to crack. I have always been hard on chair arms. They just don’t last for me. But I am too old, too experienced, and too cheap to replace a chair over worn arms. No way. I just slap on a pair of cheap armrest pads and keep on typing.
—–
You can buy an ergonomic office chair Bruce’s way. Or, if you haven’t collected on your inheritance yet (or if you don’t expect one at all) you can do it my way. $75 chair, $15 for the seat cushion, although I’d really already gotten my use out of it, and — a year or so later — $11 for the armrest pads.

In contrast, Bruce’s Herman Miller chair cost…. well, we’ll let him tell you himself (if he wants to). 🙂

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Robin "Roblimo" Miller

Robin "Roblimo" Miller is a freelance writer and former editor-in-chief at Open Source Technology Group, the company that owned SourceForge, freshmeat, Linux.com, NewsForge, ThinkGeek and Slashdot, and until recently served as a video editor at Slashdot. Now he's mostly retired, but still works part-time as an editorial consultant for Grid Dynamics, and (obviously) writes for FOSS Force.

10 comments to Finding an Ergonomic Computer Chair an Ubuntu User Can Afford

  • I don’t know much about taxes in the US, but in Canada I can write off an expensive chair as a business expense. If I have to part with the money any way, better it go to my comfort than the government, right? 😉

  • Robin Miller

    Same here, but we can also spend just a little on our chairs and write off a trip to Key West, too…

  • Bob

    I have a very expensive Herman Miller chair at work. It’s OK. At home I have a $100 chair from Sam’s Club. The Sam’s Club chair, IMO, is much more comfortable. Your comfort may vary.

  • UncleEd

    Bruce, you are correct about the taxes and deductions–if they apply. In the USA, if it’s a home office, deductions are scrutinized rather vigorously. I have never heard of its happening, but my guess is that if your dog sleeps in your chair while you are not using, it, that violates the requirement that the office and equipment be used only for the business purposes if taken literally. Best I can tell, “literally” beats “reasonable” in the tax code.

    For those of us who are retired, we get to pay cash for stuff and scrounging for good deals like Roblimo is advocating makes good sense. Besides, you can only write off the business expense if the business is making money. As with medical and other deductions, it’s much better to have the money than the deductions.

  • Bruce Byfield

    One thing I would like to mention: “ergonomic” is used for computer chairs the same way that “gluten-free” is used in the grocery store. There is no standard required to use the word “ergonomic,” and in lots of cases it is just marketing jargon.

    Even with chairs that have some legitimate claim to the term, everybody is going to have a different experience. Bodies differ.

    In my own case, for example, I found the Embody, Herman Miller’s top of the line ergonomic chair, did nothing for me. The famous Aeron chair was better, but still did little to justify the price.

  • @UncleEd The problem you reference basically refers to deductions taken for a portion of your dwelling being used as a home office. For deductions taken for income related equipment, there isn’t so much scrutiny.

  • As Christine says, it’s pretty much the same over here. We, thanks to our accountant, were able to write off pretty much everything to business expenses, while we operated our company from a spare bedroom at home.

  • Randal

    Bruce Byfield’s comment made me remember the story about the Army Air Core/Air Force’s attempt to design the average person cockpit seat and how it fit no one.
    That said, while they may not be “fashionable” in the latest color, etc. my city has at least one electronics recycling place, that also deals in commercial furniture and other stuff. They offer discounts for teachers and such. But I have seen Herman Miller, Steelcase and other commercial brands there. An option to look for if your in a larger city.

  • Eddie G.

    While I can appreciate the “antique store” mentality, and the “flea market” financial ideals. I have to differ with this one. Since I too, spend lots of time behind the keyboards of my laptop and desktop, (hey…prgramming isn’t going to teach itself now IS it!?…LoL!) And even if there were some decently priced charis residing in a dark corner of some shop or furniture store, I would have to go the other route when it comes to my home office / working space. See, I have to sit for hours poring over the manuals and tutorials for learning Java….Python…..C++…and Ruby, and I cannot have the issues that “Roblimo” mentions, I won’t have the time nor the patience to find seat cushions and armrest covers, so instead? I’ll pay the 109.50 that WalMart or Staples wants to bring home a chair that’s comfortable (Yes…I ALWAYS try out the chair before buying it…I cannot fathom how ANYONE would buy ANYTHING they’re going to be using constantly and not even attempt to try it out for size AT the place of purchase!) Once I know it will “do quite nicely” in my workspace the next thing I do is FILL OUT THE WARRANTY CARD, and then I can rest a little easier, knowing that this “new” chair will at least last a few years for me before I have to think about buying another one! Sometimes I prefer to spend and get more done, but that’s just me, and understand, I’m by no means or in no way rich, or even middle-class, but at least I’m NOT considered impoverished either! LoL!

  • Looks like a nice chair, but after using one with cloth armrests, I’ll never go back to plastic ones as that chair has. Too uncomfortable for me.